It has been a common challenge to operate optical see-through head-mounted displays in well-lit environments due to the low image brightness and contrast compared with the direct view of a real-world scene. This problem is aggravated in the design of a see-through head-mounted projection display (HMPD) in which the projected light is split twice by a beam splitter and further attenuated greatly by a retroreflective screen. A polarizing head-mounted projection display (p-HMPD) design was recently proposed to enhance the overall flux transfer efficiency and thus increase the brightness and contrast of displayed images. Different from the conventional nonpolarizing HMPD designs, the light polarization states in the p-HMPD system are deliberately manipulated to maximize the flux transfer efficiency, which can potentially result in three times higher efficiency than that of a nonpolarizing HMPD. By measuring the Mueller matrices of the major elements in both a p-HMPD and a nonpolarizing HMPD, we characterize the polarization dependence of each element on incident angles and wavelengths, and also investigate the depolarization effect of the retroreflective screen. Based on these experimental results, we further examine the overall luminance efficiencies of the two types of systems and analyze how various aspects of display performances are affected by the angular and chromatic dependence of the polarization components.
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